March 11, 2019

Does your organization have a plan for crisis management?

Before we go on to that, let’s begin with the word ‘crisis’. From an organizational perspective, crisis is a sudden and significant negative event, which either causes harm or potential for harm to an individual or organization. It encompasses the actual event, as well as the process or time leading from an event, including the subsequent perceptions of and reactions to the crisis by various stakeholders.

Air crashes and hackings are familiar associations to crisis for most of us. In the digital space, especially for brands, common examples of crises, apart from cyber-attacks, are:

  • Advocates calling for boycotts of advertisers
  • Live video covering a crisis
  • Fake news and rumors
  • Employee(s) going rogue
  • Trendjacking (a trending topic on Twitter hijacked with irrelevant tweets from spam users) during a sensitive situation
  • Outrage based on something that has been posted or published

It is very likely that you have come across or at least read about more than one incident relating the above. Therefore, it is imperative to consider crisis management as a critical organizational function. Foresighted organizations tend to have a crisis plan in place, with Public Relations practitioners as integral parts of the plan. Vast amount of information is available regarding crisis management and planning from various researches conducted on the topic as well as the public knowledge base from field practitioners. However, it can be difficult to synthesize exactly what should be the best practices when it’s YOU who is faced with an adversity. So here is a concise action plan that we hope to be helpful for any business to formulate an effective process so that, if ever faced with a crisis, the organization can be ready to manage without missteps that might further aggravate the situation. Make sure that you put a crisis management plan in place which contains the following:

1.Outlines all the steps needed to be taken during a crisis:

This can vary depending on the type of your business/organization and the different crises you anticipate to occur, whether due to human error, technical faults or natural causes

  1. Describes who should be involved:

It’s important to decide on specific people who should be in-charge of managing different aspects of the crises, including arbitration with aggrieved persons, dealing with any perpetrator, managing any victim, responding to queries from the public, making official statements, debriefing team members on next steps, etc. Clarify the roles of the spokesperson and key players involved.

  1. Describes when to respond and includes prepared statements:

Depending on the gravity and type of crisis, deferring responses on behalf of the organization might be a good idea to contain the situation without escalation. However, DO NOT say “No comments”. This could only generate suspicion, mistrust and further outrage. Rather, you can say, “At this time, we are in the midst of an investigation and do not have all the facts. However, we will be providing an update on Tuesday to provide more details to your queries.” Make it a point to clearly communicate when a response or further information should be expected.

  1. Includes an action plan for crisis escalation:

Again, this can vary depending on the timing, nature and magnitude of the crisis. However, a general advice would be to use your best influencers and advocates. These individuals can be your best allies in times of crisis, not just for promotions of goods and services.

Tips for Social Media during a Crisis:

  • Pause scheduled posts, paid ads and marketing emails.
  • Assess planned blogging and campaign schedule for appropriateness.
  • Create a post addressing the issue if needed and provide talking points for executives as required.
  • Check contents for relevant references that could be perceived offensive, rude or insensitive in the light of the event.
  • Cancel any planned product updates/changes if the situation demands.
  • Create plan for employee communication and customer support issues as needed.
  • Notify individuals speaking that day on whether they need to address the event or not. If they do, determine the relevant talking points.
  • Consider creating a flowchart of action. You can feel free to use the relevant template by Talkwalker.

Effects of a crisis can range from financial loss to disrupted operations, loss of market share/purchase intentions, and even lawsuits related to the crisis. Hence, get started with your crisis management plan without further delay! If you need expert support for identifying exactly the type and possible measures for crises that may befall your particular firm, our team at WebAble is here at your service! We can also help you engage influencers as ambassadors who will represent your organization’s side of the story as a trustworthy face.

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